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Cowboys Draft 2020: Scouts & front office must hit on picks after striking out in 2019

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Will McClay, Stephen Jones, and company need to make sure they wash the sour taste of the 2019 draft away,

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Coach Mike McCarthy Press Conference Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys have received a ton of well-deserved praise for some of their recent draft classes. Many draft experts have put the Cowboys among the best drafting teams in the league for successes like the 2016 NFL Draft, where they struck gold with Ezekiel Elliott, and their franchise quarterback, Dak Prescott. In 2016, six of the nine draft picks ended up producing on the field, four of the six found starting roles. Even going back further than that, the Cowboys have drafted 11 Pro Bowlers or All-Pro players since the 2010 NFL Draft. Dallas also got plenty or quality production from other picks but last year’s draft really knocked some gleam off the star.

The NFL is a what have you done for me lately league and the Cowboys whiffed in 2019 in a major way. Trysten Hill was considered by many to be a reach for need and he played in just seven games as a rookie. Hill was on the inactive list for most of the year and he was the highest-drafted player last season. To make matters even more bleak, Connor McGovern, a third-round pick was on IR for the year and three other rookies zeroed out. The only player that produced anything was their fourth-round running back, Tony Pollard.

That’s why you can bet that Will McClay and Stephen Jones are really looking forward to redeeming themselves starting tonight. With a new coaching staff fighting through a worldwide pandemic, most NFL teams would practice patience but there will be no such luck for Mike McCarthy in Dallas.

When the staff is comprised of experienced NFL coaches like McCarthy, Mike Nolan, Joe Philbin, and John Fassel, there will be expectations. When the roster has 13 former Pro Bowl or All-Pro players in prime positions, expectations grow even larger. That’s the results of marrying a talented coaching staff with a talented roster of mostly young players, thems the rules.

The Cowboys front office had to make some tough decisions this offseason, things like letting Byron Jones, Robert Quinn, and Randall Cobb go elsewhere. It’s understandable to not want to build a roster full of top paid players at every position. The Cowboys decided to pay Ezekiel Elliott and DeMarcus Lawrence in 2019. They paid Amari Cooper and plan to work out a extension for Dak Prescott this offseason. These decisions, opinions aside, have set the Cowboys up where they will need to lean on a rookie class to contribute.

If the front office find themselves in no man’s land at 17 and need to bail out of the pick, so be it. They just need to make sure they find the right partner to trade with so they can be on the receiving end of value instead of the other way around.

The Cowboys have to provide some answers to the holes on their roster, especially on defense. Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory hopes are not answers as to who will rush on the opposite side of DeMarcus Lawrence. Chidobe Awuzie is a solid starter but he is not a top-flight corner by any measure and still struggles to cover downfield. Anthony Brown is a decent third cornerback but he’s not a reliable starter on the perimeter. Jourdan Lewis has made plays when he’s been given opportunities but does he have the length to hold up as a full-time starter on the outside? What’s the status of Leighton Vander Esch’s health because there seems to be smoke regarding the Cowboys’ interest in linebackers. Are the Cowboys worried about LVE’s neck or do they have buyer’s remorse with paying Jaylon Smith too early? What are the futures of the defensive tackle and safety positions? How will the Cowboys replace their hole at slot receiver?

These are just many of the questions on the minds of everyone that follows this team. The Cowboys just cannot afford another 2019 Draft where they get almost no production. The Cowboys, and specifically the highly-touted draft team of McClay and the Joneses, must produce some hits. The pressure is on for the 2020 Dallas Cowboys.